Stories are powerful. This is why we are captivated by movies, by television, by musicals, and by novels. This is why advertisers sell their products by telling stories. This is why politicians advocate for their positions through telling stories. Stories are memorable, and they shape the way we view the world.
We are bombarded with stories each day, so it is incumbent upon us as Christians to remind ourselves of THE story. After all, we have come to believe that we are living in a story in which God is drawing lost people to Himself through Jesus. We are living in a story in which we have an enemy who deceives and attacks. We are constantly in a battle between good and evil, between righteousness and temptation, and between heaven and hell. We need to be reminded of the story in which we live, lest we begin to believe that we are in a story that is only about the here-and-now.
One of the ways that I remind myself of the Christian story is through reading great books. Of course, as Christians we should all begin with consistent Bible reading. On top of this, though, I find that there are certain books to which I continue to return. In this post, I will share about five books that I have read a number of times because I want to recommend them to everyone. If you take the time to read these, I believe that you will find it time well spent.
Future Grace by John Piper. John Piper is a wonderful author and speaker and he has written many celebrated books. Future Grace is my favorite book of his because it is deep biblically and helpful practically. The basis of the book is that God calls us to live our lives not simply in light of gratitude for what God has done in the past, but by faith in the future grace that He has promised. Piper explores how faith in future grace liberates us from bitterness, from anxiety, from lust, and from misplaced shames. It is a fantastic book that I have read over and over, and I plan to continue. Also, as a note, the book has 31 chapters, so some people choose to read a chapter a day over the course of a given month.
The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. In this particular list I am only recommending non-fiction books. If I was recommending fiction, though, C.S. Lewis would make that list as well. My favorite of his non-fiction books, however, is The Four Loves. In this book, Lewis walks through the four Greek words for love. Roughly, the four words refer to (1) affection, (2) friendship, (3) erotic love, and (4) charity. If you read The Four Loves, be ready to be humbled. You are likely to find that there are many times when you believe that you are acting in love, but that you are truly acting in a self-serving way. Also, be ready to grapple with how our love for God is so very different from His love for us. This book is relatively short and very readable.
Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller. If you attend LBF Church, you are likely to have heard me talk about Timothy Keller. I love his writings and his sermons. I find him to be deeply insightful. His book Counterfeit Gods is about how human beings are made to worship. However, instead of automatically directing this worship toward God, we tend to manufacture idols. In our current culture, three of our main idols are money, sex, and power. Keller takes on these three “counterfeit gods,” as well as several others. In each chapter, he exposes an idol of the heart and highlights a biblical narratives that demonstrates that problem of the idol.
Knowing God by J.I. Packer. This book has become a Christian classic. In it, Packer walks through the characteristics of God, so that we can grow to know Him in a deeper way. The book is deep in Scripture and theology, and yet it is also truly devotional in spirit. According to the Apostle Paul, all pursuits in life are garbage as compared with knowing God. This book is a gift in our pursuit of knowing Him.
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton is another author who would make by fiction list as well. His book Orthodoxy is both philosophical and autobiographical. It is the story of how he, in search of a philosophy of life and of the world, found himself utterly convinced of Christian orthodoxy. His book is rich, funny, insightful, and timely. There are many themes in the book that seem like they are ripped from the headlines today. Of the five books recommended in this post, this is probably the most challenging. At the same time I could not leave it off the list because I find myself enriched and delighted each time I read it.
What stories are you consuming? As you look to live in light of the true story of God’s great work in our world, take the time purposefully to read good books that remind you of the battle you are in and of the God in whom you have come to trust.
Also, feel free to comment on this post and recommend good books that you think can be helpful to others who are looking to draw near to God.